Catering to Gen X

June 1999

Managing:Your Market

Catering to Gen X

This growing consumer force is beginning to enjoy the finer things in life

The nation's 80 million Generation Xers will have a total income of $1.8 trillion by the year 2001, and they want to live well and enjoy life. This information surfaced at a recent Wine Business Education Seminar for wine marketing executives sponsored by Sonoma State University's School of Business. What can jewelers learn from the wine industry?

Participants learned that Gen-X makes up the largest segment of America's population. "It's imperative to recognize that Generation X is not a life stage, but it's a birthgroup ultimately moving through stages in life," says Joel Quigley, executive director of Wine Brats, an organization formed to promote wine to young adults. Generation X comprises people born between 1961 and 1981, the 18-to-38 age group.

Darryl Roberts, publisher of WineX Magazine,whose target audience is Gen X, says marketing to young people must be all about lifestyle. Quigley agrees: "Their philosophy is to work hard and enjoy themselves. They saw Grandpa save all his life, never take a trip, retire so he could go around the world and then drop dead six months later."

It's important for retailers to reach this group now because consumption habits are set by the time a person reaches the mid-20s. "They fall back on something they feel comfortable with," says Roberts. "If they drink beer now, they'll continue to drink beer because that's comfortable for them." Perhaps the same thing could be said for jewelry: if you can get Gen X customers hooked young on buying fine jewelry, it will be a lifelong passion.

Here are some tips the panelists offer on attracting Gen-Xers:

  • Staff. Hire and train Gen Xers to sell to their own age group. Make sure the staff has a casual attitude. Dress like Gen X – neat and hip, but generally more casual than older folks.
  • Find out what they want, what they know. Some Gen Xers don't know much yet about buying the finer things in life, so ask basic questions: How much do you want to spend? What do you prefer? What's the occasion? Don't overwhelm them with technical information.
  • Atmosphere. Make your store's appearance more casual. Intimidation is a big negative with any group, but especially Gen X.
  • Pricing. Gen Xers may spend only $6 for wine to go with pizza Wednesday night, but they'll also spend $35 for wine for a special occasion. The key is value. How can jewelers translate? Have the best-quality and most fashion-forward silver jewelry in your town, but try to tempt your younger customers to trade up to gold and platinum. For special occasions, they may take the bait.
  • Education. Conduct in-store classes for Xers. Make your mailers and other advertising conversational. Printed material doesn't need to be humorous – though that's not a bad idea – but it should be relaxed and comfortable.
  • Promotions. Make your promotional and advertising material short and to the point. Gen Xers have to take in massive amounts of information in a short time, digest it, analyze it and then make a decision. Don't waste their time with fluff.
  • Interact. When speaking with Gen X, show intelligence without intimidation or worse, condescension.

– by Jack Heeger

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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